04 October, 2011


I can't believe it's already been a year since we got the chickens. I'm thanking my luck that it's been an uneventful year without any major disasters and my skittish little chooks have grown into cheeky and very greedy girls.

I've been keeping an egg tally to see how many eggs the hens have laid so far and the results are in... During their first year, the chickens have laid a total of 594 eggs: Bella the Bluebelle 308 pale cream ones and Cissy the Speckledy 286 slightly darker (and sometimes speckled) ones. Bella started laying November 11th last year and although Cissy didn't start until December 16th, she's slowly catching up. The smallest egg so far was Bella's very first attempt, weighing only 43g, and the largest a whopping 83g double-yolker laid by Cissy.

Our second chicken keeping year will start tomorrow with a worming party!

17 September, 2011

Easy cheesy horns

These are my version of croissants (although admittedly they have very little in common with the real thing), only healthier and very easy to make. I always make a huge batch for the freezer... And then another batch a couple of weeks later after the first one has magically disappeared.

Easy cheesy horns

3 1/2 dl plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g Flora Cuisine
2 dl Total 0% greek yoghurt (or similar)
mature cheddar cut into strips
(you could also add some ham)
1 egg
poppy or sesame seeds

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the Flora and mix with your hand until crumbly. Add the greek yoghurt and mix into a dough. Divide the dough into two and put half aside. Roll the other half into a circle and cut it into eight sectors (like you would slice a pizza). Put some cheese (and ham if using)  into the widest end of the sector, roll towards the pointy end and lift onto a baking parchment. Repeat with the rest of the slices and the remaining dough. Once all of the horns have been rolled brush them with a beaten egg and decorate with seeds of your choice. Bake 225°C /10–15 mins. Serve warm.

16 September, 2011

What to do with crab apples?

As our apple harvest was somewhat small, I was hoping to find someone with a surplus and get some cooking apples for making preserves. I was in luck and found a lovely gentleman with a huge crab apple tree nearby. We were told to help ourselves to as many apples as we wanted and we were happy to oblige. We came back with a full bucket having barely made a dent in the tree!

I've never cooked with crab apples before, but I had a look in Pam the Jam's trusted preserve book the night before and decided that jelly would be the way to go. It turned out beautifully and made the whole house smell very Christmassy. Maybe I can convince myself to part with a jar or two for Christmas hampers. Or maybe it will get smeared on numerous pieces of toast well before it's time to start wrapping presents.

Spicy crab apple jelly

1 kg crab apples, washed and roughly chopped
600ml water
around 450g granulated sugar
a couple of cloves and cinnamon sticks

Place the apples and spices in a saucepan, pour over the water and bring to simmering point. Simmer until all the fruit is soft and remove from the heat. Pour the contents into a scalded jelly bag (I bought this one for the purpose) and leave to drip overnight at its own pace. If you squeeze it, the jelly will turn cloudy. The next day measure the juice and allow 450g sugar for every 600ml juice. Bring the juice slowly to the boil and add the sugar. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly for 9-10 mins without stirring until setting point is reached. Skim, pour into sterilised jars and seal as quickly as possible. Use within 12 months.     

I had quite a lot of crab apples left after making the jelly, so I decided to use the rest for making fruit leathers. As the mush for the jelly was straining, I pushed a second batch of spiced mushy apples through a sieve and decided to add to the flavour by heating up a mixture of frozen berries. This too was pushed through a sieve (note to self: get a mouli for next year!) before mixing in with the pureed apple. For the leathers I followed this simple recipe.

Fruit leathers

spices such as cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, ginger
sugar or honey to taste

Wash your fruit and discard any damaged or bruised fruit. Chop roughly and add 1 cup of water for every 4 cups of fruit. Add your chosen spices and simmer until the fruit has softened. Rub the mushy fruit through a sieve or use a mouli and return the pulp to the pan. Taste and sweeten if necessary. Pour the mixture onto baking trays lined with baking paper and spread it out thinly. Leave them in the oven to dry for 4-8 hours/below 60°C at your lowest setting, preferably with the fan on and the door open. Alternatively you can leave them overnight in a dehydrator if you happen to own one. Keep the leathers in a tin at room temperature, rolled in baking paper (they will keep for a few weeks) or in the fridge in an airtight container (this way they will keep for months).

No need to buy any sweets for a while then, I'll quite happily munch these tangy strips until we run out!

Our first apple harvest

Our Discovery on the left, a shop bought Pink Lady on the right.

And the grand total of apples this year is... six! That's from all four potted trees; two per tree, not counting the naughty Cox's Orange Pippin which lived up to its reputation and refused to play. We had plenty of blossoms in the spring (and very pretty they were too), but as I was advised to limit the number of apples on the first year, I chopped all but two tiny apples off all the trees. Maybe it's for this reason (there was certainly enough room for growth) that all our apples have grown absolutely huge.

Our Fiesta on the left, a shop bought Discovery on the right.

We've left both of the James Grieves on the tree, so we've got one more tasting to come!

11 June, 2011

Rhubarb soup

When I was little, every now and again my mother would serve some sort of fruit soup for afters. The ingredients always depended on what berries we had frozen for the winter, what was in season in the summer was usually eaten fresh. Rhubarb was the only fruit that got made into a soup in the summer and it's probably my favourite of them all.

Rhubarb soup

500g rhubarb
5 dl water
1 dl sugar
2 tbsp potato flour

Wash the rhubarb and chop the stems roughly. Bring the water to the boil, and add the sugar and rhubarb. Cook the rhubarb chunks until soft. Mix the potato flour with a little bit of cold water, take the pan off the heat and pour the potato flour liquid slowly into the pan, stirring continuously. Pop the pan back on the heat and keep stirring until the soup starts to thicken, then take off heat again. Pour the soup into individual serving bowls and sprinkle some sugar over the top. Once it has cooled down, serve with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

If you wait until your strawberries are ripe, you can add some in the pan with the rhubarb chunks. Works just as well made from frozen rhubarb (and strawberries) in the depths of winter to bring back the memories of summer.

09 June, 2011

Fox alert!

As the weather warmed up in April, I decided that it was warm enough for the chicken coop door to be left open at night. The chickens were free to go to bed when they thought it was getting dark enough and get up as early as they pleased, giving me and Hubby a chance to have a lie-in. It worked marvelously and I loved waking up to the sound of the chickens having their breakfast and softly chatting away under the bedroom window.   

It all changed one day about a month ago when my neighbour knocked on our door and told me they had seen a fox in one of the other neighbour's gardens. I had a bit of a panic and decided there and then to start locking the coop door again at night. I'm quite happy knowing that the girls will be safe if the coop door is closed properly, but I wouldn't be able to sleep a wink if I knew there was only the mesh run (although advertised as 'fox-resistant', I'm not looking forward to putting it to the test) between the chickens and the fox. The garden is dog-proofed to make sure that Hound can be left out unsupervised, but as you can see from the clip, it doesn't take much for a fox to get in. Although I haven't heard of any more sightings of Mr. Fox, I'm still locking the coop at night, just to be on the safe side.

The weekend lie-ins are over. Now I wake up to loud complaints coming from the coop if I'm not up at seven.

08 June, 2011

The new herbs arrive

Image from: http://www.manorfarmherbs.co.uk/
Inspired by the Chelsea Flower Show (it does make me laugh, all those grand designs and all I can think about is this one diddy plant), I began the search for a beautiful herb called blackcurrant sage. I have to confess I'm not a great lover of sage and wasn't too upset when mine didn't spring back after the harsh winter we had. This sage, however, is something completely different. First of all, it looks very pretty with lovely pink flowers and secondly, the leaves can be sprinkled over fruit salads, used in baking biscuits and pies or made into a nice pot of tea. That sounds like my kind of sage.

I found a place selling them online, but before I could place my order I caught sight of two other herbs I've been interested in growing, perilla and mitsuba. A couple of clicks and days later... And the herbs have arrived.  

More to come, hopefully, after the leaves have had a chance to grow and I can start experimenting.

07 June, 2011

... And not so thin egg shells

Good news on the egg front. The last three sets of eggs have been completely normal with good strong shells, so I think we can rule out calcium deficiency. I think Cissy must just had a fright (or was disturbed by one thing or another) while in mid-lay in the nest.

I did, however, do my research, in case it happens again. I found that baked and crushed egg shells should be enough to provide them with calcium, or alternatively I could spike their pellets with a small amount of limestone flour (a calcium supplement for horses) and cod liver oil (to help to absorb the calcium). The important thing is only to give them one supplement at a time, because over-dosing the chickens with calcium might lead to other problems.  

Have I learned anything from this? Yeah, keep your nose out of the coop unless both of the chickens are out!

04 June, 2011

Thin egg shells

This morning I found something interesting in the nest. My first thought was that I shouldn't have been feeding the chickens their egg shells as they now seem to have developed a taste for eggs, but on closer inspection I could see that the shell was very thin, so instead of an egg eating monster I have at least one chicken (Cissy by the looks of things) that's not getting enough calcium to produce strong shells.

Now that I think about it, they seem to have been pecking the grit pot a lot... I've topped it up with grit mixed with (baked and crushed) eggshells, and they're not getting any treats for a couple of days. If that doesn't help then it's time for more drastic action, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

03 June, 2011

Eating out #1

I don't really like shop bought potato salad and to Mr Bee's ear ache I kept going on about this lovely potato salad I used to have at my friend's house when I was younger. One day, after a quick search on google Mr Bee kindly offered to make me some. It's amazing, firstly because normally Mr Bee doesn't cook much and secondly, because it just is.

Mr Bee's amazing potato salad

salad potatoes
yoghurt/mayo or a mixture of the two
onions and/or spring onions
chives and/or garlic chives

Boil the potatoes for 20 mins and while they're boiling, chop all the ingredients. I would use gherkins and/or capers as a starting point (if you like them) and keep adding whatever takes your fancy to the mix. Add some yoghurt and/or mayo (yoghurt makes it nice and fresh, mayo more creamy), dice the spuds once they have cooled down slightly, give it all a good mix and put the bowl in the freezer until the salad is nice and cold. If you'd like a lighter version use vegetable or chicken stock instead of yoghurt or mayo.

This is a prefect accompaniment to anything that happens to be sizzling on the barbecue.

(If you look closely, you can see Cissy in the dustbath, still miffed about the bum wash.)

Mission bum wash

After a few weekly inspections I can now say that our chickens are lice-free. It took three weekends of spraying, but the nasties have finally gone. It was a nice and warm day yesterday, so I thought I'd tackle their dirty bums next. I was dreading it, thinking that the chickens wouldn't be taking it quietly, but it went better than I expected.

I put some warm water in a flexi tub and got into position, while Hubby grabbed Bella and then plonked the poor chicken in the water. I was trying to give her a good wash, but soon realised there wasn't enough water in the tub. Hubby let Bella go, I went back in to fill the tub a bit more and then it was Cissy's turn. She wasn't a happy chook, but eventually settled down. I was pretty pleased with myself, until I realised that Bella's bum was barely wet and that she still needed a good wash. This time I thought I'd try to tackle the task by myself, so I grabbed her and put her in the tub while Hubby was busy trimming the lawn edges. A big mistake if you only have two hands! Hubby came to help as soon as he could stop laughing and we finally got chicken number two clean. Phew!

I was chuffed that we managed to get both of the girls nice and clean, but the chickens didn't look too happy. They marched to the border to sulk and to dry themselves in the warm soil. I've never seen such a sorry sight.

Today I've been admiring my two lovely chickens and smiling from ear to ear. Sometimes it only takes two fluffy chicken bums to make me happy.

02 June, 2011

What to do with mint?

I've had a mint plant for a couple of years and every summer it goes absolutely wild. No matter how much mint tea I drink, I just can't keep up with it. To make matters worse, this year I have three mint plants to keep me running between the garden and the kitchen. I do like my herbs and when I finally came face to leaf with some apple mint and chocolate mint, I had to have them. My old mint is only slowly springing back, but the new arrivals are already doing great guns. 

So what to do with all that mint? Here's a few recipes I'm going to try.

Sparkling lime and mint drink

1 dl freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 dl fruit sugar
4 limes quartered
mint sprigs
8 dl sparkling water
ice cubes

Mix the lime juice and sugar. Add the quartered limes, mint and sparkling water. Mix in the ice cubes and serve.


1 litre of boiling water
a big handful of mint leaves, chopped
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp peeled and grated ginger
2 tbsp sugar
plenty of ice

Pour the boiling water over mint, lemon zest and ginger. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool and pour into glasses full of ice.

Mint pesto

2 handfuls of mint
macadamia nuts
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Blend all the ingredients and use with sweet dishes, like cakes and ice cream.

Mint and cucumber soup

1 bulb of garlic
2 large cucumbers
a big bunch of mint
olive oil
500ml milk/natural yoghurt
salt and pepper to season

Roast the garlic. Peel the cucumbers, slice them in half longways and scoop out the seeds. Chop the mint leaves. Blend garlic, cucumbers and mint, then add some olive oil in a stream while the machine is still running. Stir in the milk/yoghurt and season. Serve cold.

Mint and pea soup

1 carrot
1 celery stick
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 vegetable stock cube
400g peas
a few sprigs of mint
salt and pepper to season

Peel and chop the carrots, onion and garlic, slice the celery. Add all your chopped ingredients into a saucepan, add some oil and cook for about 10 mins. Dissolve the stock cube in 600 ml of water and add to the pan. Add the peas, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins. Season with salt and pepper and add the mint leaves. Blend until smooth and serve.

I can already picture myself on the patio on a hot day with a refreshing glass of mint-and-gingerade. Now, all we need is the sun!

19 May, 2011

Simple supper #5

Quite glamorous compared to our usual mid-week suppers, but I just happened to have some white fish in the freezer, some asparagus in the fridge and a handful of little rocket thinnings waiting to get on the plate. Not a one pot supper, but simple enough to make and very tasty.

Roasted fish with tomato and olive relish

2 white fish fillets
50g pitted black olives
50g sun-dried tomatoes and some oil from the jar
1 tsp capers
1 garlic clove

Pre-heat the oven 200°C/180°C fan. Pulse all the ingredients for the relish in a food processor or chop roughly by hand. Lay the fillets on an oven tray and spread a heaped spoonful of relish over the top. Bake for 20 mins.

Roast asparagus on rocket with a parmesan vinaigrette

fresh asparagus
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
grated parmesan
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. Trim the woody bits from the bottom of each stalk, lay the spears in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 mins and set aside. Mix together the lemon juice, parmesan and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the asparagus and rocket (and maybe a few cherry toms) on the plate and spoon the vinaigrette over them.

(The original recipes can be found in Fay's Family Food and Cook Yourself Thin.)

11 May, 2011

Wild garlic

Me and Hound set out to find some wild garlic and nettles this morning, but our trip was cut short by a rain shower. I had enough time to snatch two little plastic bags full of wild garlic leaves and flowers before starting our way back home. This is what I made.

Wild garlic pesto

100g wild garlic leaves with flowers
1dl extra virgin olive oil
50g pine nuts
50g parmesan
salt and pepper

Blanch the wild garlic leaves in boiling water for about 10 seconds, refresh in cold water and squeeze dry inside a kitchen towel. Put the wild garlic, olive oil and pine nuts into a food processor (if you like it strong you can also add a big clove of garlic) and blend. Mix in the parmesan and season. Keep in sterilised jars or spoon the mixture into ice cube moulds and freeze.
The pesto looks lovely and vibrant green (not resembling sick as in the picture, I apologise on behalf of my phone). I'm having some of the pesto today with some pasta and roasted veggies, and as there was only enough pesto to fill two small jars I'm hoping to make another trip this weekend so that I can make more and freeze some. There's nothing better than finding summery treasures in the freezer in the middle of winter.

I was tempted to try preserving some wild garlic bulbs using one of my marinated garlic recipes, but decided to steer clear of them as I found out they can give some people a stomach upset. I think the Jerusalem artichokes I planted earlier this year will provide enough excitement for now.

10 May, 2011

Chilli mania

I was supposed to grow a few different varieties of chillies this year, but things didn't exactly go to plan. I sowed two small packets of free chilli seeds (Cayenne and Anaheim) and some purple chillies (Numex R. Naky) and decided to ignore the instructions on the packet about heated propagators and keeping the temperature constant. I shouldn't have been surprised then, after weeks of waiting to see only one or two seedlings of each lifting their green heads from the compost.   

Thankfully it was a different story with my mystery seeds. I sowed a handful as I thought it unlikely most of the seeds would germinate and after a week had a tray full of seedlings.

At the present moment I have (thanks to a weekend trip to a very nice garden centre or two) five varieties of chilli plants happily growing in the greenhouses: Cayenne, Chenzo and Cheyenne came as a pack of six, a solitary Purple Gusto I couldn't leave in the shop because it said 'purple' (although apparently this too will eventually mature into a red chilli) and two Apache chillis fell into my shopping basket in Homebase, totally by accident. My own little seedlings are still being pampered in the baby veg section in the conservatory, but hopefully they'll catch up.

I now realise that my options for next year are as follows: I need to get my chillies as plants, buy a heated propagator or stick to growing one variety, Mystery Chilli.


I nearly missed spotting our first double-yolker, but here it is! It's the extra large egg (weighing 83g) that Cissy laid as a thank you for spring cleaning the coop. Of course I'd heard of double-yolkers before, but for some reason it didn't occur to me that we might get one. Now I know to be on the lookout for another one. 

Omelette for lunch, I think.

06 May, 2011

Spring cleaning

Cleaning the chicken coop is an ideal job for warm days, so as soon as the weather warmed up we took the whole coop apart and washed every nook and cranny. We used an ecological washing up liquid and a coarse brush to give it a good scrub, then rinsed the foam off and left the parts to dry in the sun. After putting the coop back together I sprayed the insides of the coop with a lice/mite spray to prevent any nasties and left the door and the eggport open to ventilate the coop before letting the chickens back in the run.

At this point I asked Hubby to catch the chooks one by one, so that I could give them a quick health check. This time I wasn't so totally shocked to find out that the girls had lice as it has happened before and the first time it was very easy to get rid of them. We sprayed the chickens and a few days later Cissy laid us this whopper as a thank you.

Our first XL-sized egg

To make sure all the lice had gone I sprayed the chickens again the following weekend and was happy to see their bums looking healthier already. I would have thought that this would be more than enough to get rid of all the lice and the eggs, but after having just checked the girls again I found Cissy's bum crawling with the little buggers. I didn't find any on Bella, but nevertheless both of the chickens got sprayed again. This time I'll be keeping a very close eye on the chickens and I will not let go of the spray can until all the nasties are gone. I don't know if I should blame the warm weather or the visiting wild birds, but I'm not liking it one bit!

21 April, 2011

Ever seen a chicken sunbathing?

Well, I have now. Two very chilled chooks have become a permanent feature in our garden. It took them a while to find a good spot though. Their first choice was one of the raised beds with lovely fluffy soil and freshly sown seeds, but after a gentle nudge followed by a generous bribe of corn I managed to persuade the girls to do their sun worship by the asparagus bed, a safe distance away from the seeds.

How cute is that!

07 April, 2011

Comfrey patch

We've got a flower bed in the front garden, but haven't had much success with it. Nothing wants to grow there and to make matters worse the neighbours' cats love using it as their toilet. We've tried water bottles and citrus peel among other things to deter the cats with no luck, but it looks like we've finally found a solution... Chicken poo. And lots of it.

I realised that what was missing from our garden was a comfrey patch so that we could make our own tomato feed, and as the back garden will be stuffed to the brim with fruit and veg very soon, I thought I'd let my small comfrey plants (kindly donated to me via Freecycle) see what they will make out of the empty flower bed. The manure we shovelled onto the bed has rotted down nicely, so the comfrey plants will be moving into their new home very soon.

I know comfrey can be quite invasive and their leaves can be a bit prickly. What more could you want from a plant to help you re-claim your flower bed. The battle is on. Who will reign supreme, cats or comfrey?

05 April, 2011

The fruit are taking over!

I'm constantly complaining about the lack of space in my garden, but lately I've come to the conclusion that it can't be that bad. While I was doing some spring cleaning I was counting all the berry pots and was quite surprised how many (the usual suspects: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, red and black currants) I'd managed to cram in. To make sure no space is wasted I've moved the water butt slightly and ordered a Japanese wineberry to climb over the arch on the side of the house. Very exciting.

I found another excuse to sneak some more fruit in as we needed to replace two big lavender bushes that had sadly drowned (drainage, drainage!) in their pots during the winter. Off to the shops we went and as soon as I saw the tree section I refused to leave without at least one tiny fruit tree. In the end we dragged two apple trees (Fiesta and Cox's Orange Pippin) and a lovely cherry tree (Stella) to the checkout. Nuts, I know. I'm not convinced we'll be getting any apples of the now total of four small trees that we have (in pots scattered around the paved bits), but I love trees and I'm happy to give them some space if there is a possibility that we'll be getting some fruit.

I think I'm now officially banned from any gardening related shops for a while.

Nuts about biscotti

The egg glut continues, so I've been leafing through various cook books and magazines and trying new recipes. Here's the recipes for my two new favourite biscuits, they're both excellent with an afternoon cup of tea and they keep really well.

Pistacchio biscotti

1 1/2dl soft brown sugar
2dl plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
150g shelled pistacchio nuts

Preheat the oven to 175°C. Measure the sugar, flour and baking powder into an electric mixer and add the eggs. When the dough is nice and smooth, fold in the nuts. Shape the dough into a long and flat log, place on a baking tray and bake for 30 mins. Cool down and slice thinly into about 40 slices. Bake the slices 140°C/20 mins turning once so that both sides bake nicely. Let them cool down and store in an air tight container.

Almond biscotti

150g shelled whole almonds
10g fennel seeds
250g plain flour
a generous pinch of baking powder
150g caster sugar
3 medium eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C. Tip all the ingredients except the eggs into an electric mixer. Mix the eggs together, stir through the flour and nut mixture and shape into a large, flat log. Put it onto a baking tray and bake for around 20 mins or until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, lift the log onto a board and slice very thinly diagonally into 30-35 slices. Place the biscuits onto a baking tray and bake for another 10 mins or until pale brown and crisp. Let them cool down and store in an air tight container.

12 March, 2011

Egg glut

We've got an egg glut. I often have an omelette or a boiled egg with my salad for lunch, but there's a limit to how many eggs one person can eat. Hubby isn't keen on eating eggs unless they've been whisked with some sugar and flour to make a cake, so the responsibility of keeping the egg mountain in check falls mostly on my shoulders. So what's a girl to do. Well bake, of course!

I raided the freezer and found small bags of grated courgettes, so the obvious thing to make was a scrummy courgette cake. I also came across some blueberries and after leafing through my new but sadly neglected cook books I decided to make blueberry muffins a la Nigel Slater.

Blueberry muffins (makes 12)

125g plain flour
125g spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
55g butter
125g sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g yoghurt
220g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place 12 paper muffin cases in a muffin tin. Sift together the flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Cream the butter and sugar, lightly beat the eggs and add to the mixture. Add the vanilla extract, then mix in the yoghurt. Gently add the dry ingredients and continue to mix throroughly. Fold in the berries. Drop the mixture into paper cases and sprinkle with some demerara sugar and rolled oats if you happen to have some. Bake for 20-22 mins.

Beats my usual blueberry muffin recipe from Fay Ripley hands down.

Simple supper #4

I always thought a risotto was a nightmare to make with all that stirring, but this recipe (from Cook Yourself Thin) made it sound quite easy, straightforward and after tasting it definitely worth the effort. I was taking turns chopping some of the ingredients and giving the risotto a good stir so it didn't even take that long to make. I absolutely love this recipe (so much so that I've already made it twice this week). It's light, zingy and fresh, so it's the perfect thing to be eating this time of year.

Prawn risotto with lemon, spring onion and basil

olive oil
1/2 onion
1 clove of garlic
150g risotto rice
75ml white wine (or dry vermouth if the wine has mysteriously disappeared)
750ml warm vegetable stock
a bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
150g cooked prawns
3 tablespoons low-fat creme fraiche
a squeeze of lemon
1/2 bunch of basil, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil, gently fry the onion and garlic. Add the rice and continue to fry for 2 mins. Add the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed. Start adding the stock, laddle by laddle, stirring until the stock is absorbed (this should take about 10-15 mins). Add the spring onion and cook for 5 mins. Add the prawns and creme fraiche. Keep on the hob and keep tasting until the rice is al dente, then take off the heat. Add a squeeze of lemon and stir through the basil. Season and grate some lemon zest over the top. Easy peasy.

I bet it would taste lovely with some chives and sorrel from the garden, why didn't I think of that before!

31 January, 2011

To do list for 2011

Where did January go, I can't believe it's almost the end of the month. I've got to make time to finish some half-written posts and read what my fellow veg growers have been up to. I thought I'd start the year by making a short list of things I'm hoping to do this year. Better late than never!

1. Go foraging. I got a lovely foraging guide called Food for Free for Christmas. I want to put it to good use and try to find some wild food on our plates while we're out and about. So far I've only succeeded to find wild garlic, but I'm hoping the illustrations will make me more confident in identifying edible plants.  

2. Go berry picking. My berries never make it to the kitchen, so I'd like to go to a Pick Your Own farm and fill my freezer with gorgeous berries for some winter smoothies. I mean to do this every year, but hopefully I'll get round to it this year.

3. Succeed in successional sowing. I always rush to sow lots of salad leaves and then forget to sow some more later. This summer, I'll try to remember to sow little and often to keep a steady supply.

4. Grow more herbs. We still have lots of room in the raised bed (which was hastily moved before the arrival of the chickens) so I'm hoping to add to our small herb garden and get some more unusual herbs to add new flavours to my cooking.

5. Grow something new. I try to grow something new each year and this year it's going to be artichokes. I've already got some Jerusalem artichoke tubers (no worries people, winter savory is on its way!) ready to go in and I've ordered a globe artichoke to be planted in the spring. I want to grow them not only for the plate, but for their beautiful flower heads as well.

6. Master the art of composting. This year I'm on a mission to make some amazing compost with the help of some chicken poo.

7. Cooking in our summer kitchen. We often cook and eat in the garden when the weather is nice, but so far it's been pretty much the same thing all over again. I'd like to try new things next summer, recipes to follow!

8. Grow winter greens. I haven't managed to grow anything edible (minus some hardy herbs) that will last well into the winter, mainly because we always go nuts in the autumn and start rearranging everything in the garden. Now that we're finally happy with where everything is, I'm hoping to leave some hardy salad leaves in the ground and keep picking them well into the winter.

9. Make more preserves. Another Christmas present, River Cottage Preserves, will come handy when it's time to make jams and pickles. Last year I tried a few things and they were such a success (they disappeared quite sharpish from the larder), so I can't wait to try preserving more fruit and veg this year. Chilli jam proved especially popular with both me and Hubby, so I'll be making a bigger batch (or three) this time.

10. Don't forget to blog! I hope I will manage to keep this up as it's becoming a good collection of my favourite recipes and both veg growing and chicken keeping related tips and reminders for those days I really appreciate that my head is firmly screwed on.